Battle of Rovine

The Battle of Rovine was one of the most important battles in the early medieval history of Romania. The battle took place on 17 May 1395 between the Wallachian army led by Voivod Mircea cel Bătrân against an Ottoman invasion led by sultan Bayezid I. The Ottoman army, numbering approximately 40,000 men, faced the much smaller Wallachian army, which was about 10,000 men. Legend says that on the eve of the battle, dressed as a peace emissary, Mircea cel Bătrân talked to Bayezid I asking him to leave Wallachia, and promising to grant him safe passage. However, the sultan insisted on fighting.

The exact site of the battle is unknown, but the Wallachian army was victorious, mainly because of its archers, who annihilated the Ottoman ranks at the beginning of the battle. Then the Wallachian cavalry charged and routed the Ottomans, who fled in disorder across the river Danube. In the battle were also involved, on the side of Bayazid, his vassals Despot Stefan Lazarevic (then he was just Grand Prince) and King Marko, the mightiest of all Serbian feudal lords. King Marko died during the battle, whilst Despot Stefan showed great courage.

An epic description of the battle is found in the poem "Scrisoarea a III-a" ("The Third Letter") written by the Romanian national poet, Mihai Eminescu. However, by reading the poem attentively, one can discover that the poet had made a mistake, placing the battle of Rovine, after the Crusade of Nicopolis (1396 ).

Another version of this battle, by a Serbian chronicle dated a century later, indicates that there were two battles. The first, the (Battle of Karanovasa), took place on 10 October 1394 in which the Wallachians won, and the second took place between 17 and 18 May 1395, in which Mircea was defeated but the Ottomans took so many casualties that they were not able to overrun the country.

The same chronicle also records that after this second battle, Mircea and the entire country bowed to the Ottoman sultan and paid tribute. However this is disputed.


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